FleishmanHillard today released “Darlings to Damaged? Managing the Technology Sector’s Reputation in an Age of Heightened Scrutiny,” a new report assessing the reputational challenges technology companies face today, as well as potential solutions to those challenges in the future. The report follows FleishmanHillard President and CEO John Saunders‘, recent discussion by the same name at the Collision tech conference in Toronto.
“Technology advancements have enabled life-saving innovations, boosted productivity, reduced the consumption of natural resources and more, but we wanted to take a step back and look at some of the unintended consequences of those benefits, and their subsequent impact on the tech sector’s reputation,” Saunders said. “Consumers are becoming more aware of data collection and how that information is being shared; tech companies are trying to address any impact they’ve had through greater collaboration and transparency; businesses are navigating through the impacts of artificial intelligence; governments are considering new ways of managing the sector through legislation and regulation. Through qualitative and quantitative research, our report explores consumer sentiment and business solutions in this current environment of heightened scrutiny.”
As part of the report, FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence conducted a survey and found that while there has been a lot of attention and conversation around the so-called techlash, 82% of U.S. and 79% of U.K. consumers still generally trust technology companies. That said, there is some generational and country divide. In the U.S., the younger generations are more skeptical, with 26% of Gen Z and 22% of millennials saying they lack trust in technology companies. That’s flipped in the U.K., where the older generations have less trust, with 38% of the silent generation lacking trust versus 13% of millennials.
The research did show a common path forward, with 70% of Americans and Britons saying they’d view technology companies more favorably if they were to take more action to address the consequences of their policies, practices and products. Regulation may also play an important role, with almost a third of respondents thinking that technology companies are regulated too little. Further, it was revealed that some Britons may believe American companies could learn something from the British – 60% of Britons believe that U.K. technology companies are regulated about the right amount, with only 32% saying they’re regulated too little. Fewer Britons, 54%, believe U.S. companies are regulated the right amount, and 39% believe they need to be regulated more.
The report’s findings combine original research with insights from some of the world’s leading thinkers in this space, including the CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the CIO of Canada, a Harvard professor and many more.
The report explores topics including:
- Consumers’ general level of trust in technology and generational differences;
- Actions consumers expect companies to take to build trust in this space;
- The role of self-regulation, responsibility and shared value in addressing the current reputational challenges;
- The macroeconomic and geopolitical situation more broadly;
- How regulation and legislation might play a role in rebuilding trust;
- What actions should be taken to ensure AI is a benefit to business and society; and
- The convenience of hyper-personalization, weighed against security risk and data protection needs
“As companies navigate the increasingly complex environment, the best approach is to commit to being transparent, and to work collaboratively with government, regulators and academia,” Saunders said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to always doing the right thing, and ensuring you’re operating with the highest ethical standards and in the best interest of your stakeholders.”
FleishmanHillard’s “Darlings to Damaged?” report includes qualitative and quantitative data. FleishmanHillard TRUE Global Intelligence conducted a survey among a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults each in the U.S. and U.K., 18 years of age and older. The U.S. sample is demographically balanced for age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The U.K. sample is demographically balanced for age and sex. The surveys were fielded online in April and May of 2019.